If you are not the biological parent of a child or have not adopted the child, your rights as it relates to child custody are different from biological or other legal parents.  Two legal parents of a child (often the biological parents) are generally on the same footing when it comes to the ability to file for child custody.

If you have not adopted the child or are not a biological parent of the child, you likely have to proceed under third party custody.  We see this generally with same sex couples, grandparents and step-parents.  Here are 5 things to know about third party custody.

  1. It is dangerous to pursue third party custody without an experienced child custody attorney. Third party custody can be very tricky and it requires specific pleadings in your initial complaint (request for custody).  Also, the evidence you need to present can be vastly different.
  2. You do not have the same legal rights as the legal parent.  While you may believe you are a better person to have custody, our laws recognize constitutional rights for legal parents that you have to overcome to proceed on custody.
  3. Legal parents have a constitutional right to the control of their children and are protected from having custody taken away from them. A legal parent can waive constitutional protection if the parent (1) is unfit, (2) has neglected the child, or (3) has acted inconsistently with their constitutionally protected status as a parent.
  4. The court must determine the constitutional protection was waived, before it even considers what is in the best interests of the child.
  5. Nothing lasts forever.  If a parent is making actions that are neglectful or are otherwise unfit, they may come back later to show the court they have improved their life styles and ask for custody to be given back or visitation to increase.  This is one reason why it is a good decision to maintain a good relationship with your child custody attorney.

Custody disputes can be tricky, and it is crucial that you get advice from an experienced custody attorney to ease the process. Please contact our office today and schedule a consult with our family law attorney, Maria Hawkins.

Related Post: When Can Grandparents File for Visitation?